What happens when you take a dysfunctional president, fly him oversees to meet with the dysfunctional government of a dysfunctional country, and have them discuss dysfunctional policy? Nothing.
And that is exactly what transpired when US President Joe Biden traveled to Israel, where he met with interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid to discuss ongoing US effort to negotiate a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA (popularly known as the Iran nuclear agreement).
A quick history lesson—President Barack Obama helped bring the JCPOA to fruition back in 2015, over strenuous Israeli objections. In May 2018, President Donald Trump precipitously withdrew from the JCPOA after succumbing to Israeli pressure to do so. Since that time, both the US and Israel have come to regret that decision. Iran responded to the US withdrawal and subsequent restoration of so-called “maximum pressure” sanctions by implementing procedures permitted under the terms of the JCPOA to halt compliance with its JCPOA-specific obligations in the case of violations of the JCPOA by other parties (in this case, the European parties to the agreement, who succumbed to the threat of US sanctions and blocked the implementation of economic interaction with Iran protected under the JCPOA.)
The result of the US submission to the whims of Israel is that Iran has significantly furthered its nuclear enrichment programs, void of any comprehensive monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency, in effect creating the very scenario the JCPOA was intended to forestall in the first place—the accumulation by Iran of stocks of enriched uranium sufficient for the production of enough fissile material to produce at least one, and possible more, nuclear weapons—if Iran was, in fact, pursuing a nuclear weapons program. No evidence has been put forward by any nation, including Israel, to substantiate such an allegation.
In meetings with Biden, Lapid underscored Israel’s position that Iran could never be permitted to have nuclear weapons, to which Biden responded, “There will be no nuclear Iran.” These sentiments were codified in writing when Biden and Lapid signed a joint declaration the next day where the two leaders pledged never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. Biden, in comments made to the press during his Israeli visit, said that he would be willing to use “force” as a “last resort” to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
Normally, one would be expected to take such bold pronouncements at face value. Several problems that emerge, however, when it comes to giving the President and his words credence. Despite its recent efforts at muscle-flexing through the conduct of war games simulating an Israeli air strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, the reality is that Israel, according to its own Defense Ministry, is at least a year away from having a viable attack plan in place for any such action, and at least three years away from being able to implement such a plan.
Enter Joe Biden. The fact remains that Israel is not, and probably will never be, in position to initiate and sustain viable military action against Iran without the assistance of the United States. Biden’s promise of “force” when it comes to responding to any Iranian effort to acquire a nuclear weapon was meant to assure his Israeli partners that they could count on the US. But the fact is that the Israeli perception of what constitutes a nuclear capability (i.e., any nuclear enrichment capability) is far different from how America defines the problem (a viable military weaponization program.) Squaring these differences in a manner which would facilitate any possible joint military action against Iran is truly a mission impossible.
But at the end of the day, intent must conform to capability, and here the US lacks the ability to back up Biden’s words with meaningful action. Forget, for a moment, that US military power in the Middle East post-Afghanistan is in the retrograde. Ignore the fact that America’s finite military capabilities are currently fully taxed in Europe and Asia, confronting the combined threats posed by Russia and China.
Look instead to where Biden is traveling next, and why. Biden will be meeting with Saudi leaders to convince them to increase oil production to help offset the loss of Russian oil on the global market. But the Saudi’s know, as do all the other oil producing [Persian] Gulf Arab nations, that any military attack by Israel and/or the United States against Iran will unleash a retaliatory strike by Iran against the totality of Middle East oil production capacity for which there is no defense.
If the world is undergoing a major energy crisis because of oil supply disruption brought about by the removal of Russian oil from the European and American markets, imagine the economic catastrophe that would occur if the oil production capacity of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates were to be permanently eliminated because of Iranian military action in response to any Israeli-US strike.
Biden’s empty promises to Israel of conditional American military intervention in Iran is yet another sign of growing American impotence in global security affairs—all talk, no action.
By Scott Ritte